By Jamie Siebrase | Aug 29, 2015
Gift Baskets and Bouquets
Beyond lemonade stands and bake sales, Eco Flower founder and co-owner Meagan Chapman was so interested in business that she ran a haunted house out of her parents' garage during elementary school.
"My dad is an entrepreneur, and I guess it's just in my blood," Chapman says.
French Kiss Fitness was her first grown-up business venture. Founded in 2005, the Utah studio delivered some of the world's first pole dancing fitness classes. Chapman was in Las Vegas when she realized pole dancing was a killer workout; when she noticed demand for pole dancing back home, Chapman filled it by ordering a dozen poles and setting up shop in a warehouse.
That center eventually morphed into a controversial, booming trio of pole dancing facilities that Chapman handed over to one of her employees in 2013. According to Chapman, "The venture shows that I don't discriminate, and I tap into industries that are the first of their kind."
A year later, Chapman launched Eco Flower. But, the basis for her flower business actually originated a decade earlier when Chapman was still in high school.
Chapman's busy parents had forgotten to bring flowers to one of her dance recitals. And that gave 16-year-old Chapman an idea: Lots of parents are pressed for time -- Why not sell flowers at the school?
Two years later, Chapman was still selling flowers at her school's gymnasium when a friend went to Chile and brought back a wood flower. Chapman ordered 1,000, and she sold out before graduating later that spring.
When high school ended, Chapman's flower business went dormant. But, not forever: after selling her fitness studio, Chapman's dad encouraged her to revisit flowers; this time, she was older and wiser, and she had the Internet to help with marketing.
Chapman posted information about Eco Flower on Facebook, and, she says, "All of my friends went crazy."
That was just the encouragement she needed; Chapman started ordering unfinished wood flowers from an international supplier, and she finished them in her one-car garage, adding colorful stems and heads and arranging bouquets.
Business is booming. "Last year, we did $8,000 in sales total. This year,” Chapman says, “We're on track to gross $1.3 million.” She's added 20 full-time flower-makers who work in Chapman's 8,000-square-foot Ogden facility.
Within the multi-billion dollar cut flower industry, the three giants -- ProFlowers, FTD and 1-800-Flowers -- might be limited by existing plant species, but for Chapman, the sky's the limit. Her unfinished flowers ship out in a few dozen different shapes; from there, employees can add any combination and arrangement of color imaginable.
"Half of the flowers," Chapman says, "are made from recycled wood pellets." Eco Flowers also uses comic books, music sheets, burlap, pinecones and family photos for the popular photo flower bouquets.
The final step is scenting: "We use smells people like to have in the house," Chapman explains, rattling off raspberry, sweet tea and ocean breeze.
Challenges: Inventory and cash flow. "We have a bigger demand than we can keep up with, and so we're having growing pains right now," Chapman says.
Opportunities: "There's a lot of room for growth," according to Chapman. Someday she'd like to be competitive with the big-time cut flower suppliers. "It might be an unattainable goal, but we're going to try," Chapman says.
Needs: More employees! “The most important thing for me is providing fun jobs to our local community," Chapman says, adding, “We interview every day."